Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan was one of the prominent leaders of Pakistan, who nourished the new-born Muslim State with supreme dedication. He laid down his life while serving the nation and thus established a noble tradition of sacrifice to be written in the golden words by the future historians of Pakistan. His sacred blood flowed in the Company Bagh, Rawalpindi on 16th October will ever remain shining on the horizon of Pakistan, inspiring those who destined to devote their life for the cause of the country. His last words “God save Pakistan” will echoed the ears as long as Pakistan exists. The bank balance of Rs 1200, which he left for his family, is a positive proof of his honest living, and his noble character. He set an example to utilise the state exchequer on the national development, instead of personal pursuits. He was the only leader who left in India a large estate and never claimed any compensation for his landed property.
It is very unfortunate that the services and sacrifices of Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan were never fully appreciated by his contemporaries, who deliberately denied his importance and tried to suppress the sympathy manifested and maintained by the people of Pakistan. The present regime, while celebrating the year 2003 as the year of Madar-i-Millat Mohtarama Fatima Jinnah has established a good example of presenting homage to the heroes, which ought to be followed by the successive governments. Liaquat Ali deserves to be remembered as one of the great leaders of Pakistan Movement in a befitting manner.
Liaquat was born in an aristocratic family on 1st October 1896 at Karnal. His father, Nawab Rustam Ali Khan, enjoyed the title of Ruken-ud-Daulah, Shamsher Jang and Nawab Bahadur, bestowed by the British government. He was one of the few landlords whose landed property was spread in the two Provinces of India; Punjab and UP. He was brought up in the enlightened atmosphere.
Liaquat Ali Khan seemed to have been far sighted even in his schools days. He realised that if he was to become an important person in life, he must achieve high education and if possible, proceed to England for higher studies, after having graduated in India. Accordingly, he pleaded with his father to allow him to join Aligarh College for his B A, a request that his father willingly conceded, and in that year Liaquat Ali Khan came to be a student at Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College, Aligarh. After studying at Aligarh for some time, he joined a college in Allahabad, from where he obtained his B A Degree in 1918.
After the death of his father Liaquat Ali Khan went to England for higher studies. He joined Exeter College of the Oxford University and obtained Masters Degree from that University in 1921. Thereafter he joined the Inner Temple, from where he was called to the Bar in 1922. While a student at Oxford he took an active part in debates organised by the Indian Majlis, of which he was later on elected Honorary Treasurer.
After returning to India he instead of adopting a lucrative career, decided to enter politics intending to serve his community. Liaquat joined the All India Muslim League in 1923. He was elected a member of the UP Legislative Council from the Rural Muslim Constituency of Muzzafarnagar in 1926 and soon established himself as a promising Muslim politician. In 1932, he was elected the Deputy President of UP Legislative Council, unanimously.
Liaquat came into close contact with Quaid-i-Azam in 1933 when he visited England with his bride, Rana Liaquat Ali. Previously he was invited by the Quaid to participate in the All India National Convention held at Calcutta in the last week of December 1928, which rejected Quaid’s compromising formula for communal co-operation and consequently alienated him from the Congress for ever. The couple was entertained by the Quaid who, disappointed and dejected from the political scenario of India, settled in England after the failure of 3rd Round Table Conference. Liaquat argued about Quaid’s return to India stressing that: “you must come back. The people need you. You alone can put new life into the League and save it.”
On Quaid-i-Azam’s return to India after a self-imposed temporary retirement, he became to be more and more impressed with the qualities of leadership that were inherent in Liaquat Ali Khan. The annual session of the All India Muslim League met at Bombay on 12th April 1936. The question arose of electing a new General Secretary. Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan was a favourite for that office and every one felt convinced that the Raja Saheb would be elected. But Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan had caught the eye of the Quaid as a suitable person to hold that difficult post. The Quaid let his choice be known to some of the leaders, and the name of Liaquat Ali Khan began to gather more and more support… The result was that in the open session. on 12th of April 1936, Quaid-i-Azam himself moved a resolution, proposing Liaquat Ali Khan to be the Honorary Secretary. The Quaid said: “Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan is my right hand”. He paid very high compliments to the untiring work put in by Liaquat. He continued: “Liaquat Ali Khan has worked and served the League day and night, and that it was beyond the capacity of any one man to shoulder the burden and responsibility of work that he had been called upon to do. He said he could not think of any one else better suited for the post than Liaquat Ali Khan, whose name was before the meeting.” He commands the universal respect and confidence of the Muslims of India.” ….The resolution was unanimously adopted amid thunderous applause.
The resolution said, “Resolved that Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan Saheb, Deputy President, UP Legislative Council, be elected Honorary Secretary of the All India Muslim League for the next term, of three years”. This resolution, seconded by Sir Mohammad Yakub, was unanimously adopted, and the Nawabzada became for the first time, General Secretary of the All India Muslim League. He continued to hold this important and vital office in the organisation from 1936 right up to 1947. It was only after partition that another General Secretary was elected…. Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan was one of the most trusted lieutenants of the Quaid.
On the 14th of August 1947, Pakistan came into existence as an independent sovereign Muslim State. On the 15th, was issued the first notification of the Government of Pakistan, wherein it was notified that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah “has been appointed by His Majesty to be the Governor-General of Pakistan”. Another notification, issued on the same day, said that “The Governor-General has been graciously pleased to appoint Liaquat Ali Khan, I I Chundrigar, Ghulam Mohammad, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Jogendra Nath Mandal, Fazlur Rahman to be ministers of the Government of Pakistan”. Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan was designated in the notification to be the Prime Minister and in charge of Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Relations and Defence.
Being the first Prime Minister of a new country, starting from scratch, was no easy job. But the Quaid-i-Millat proved equal to the task; he shouldered his difficult responsibilities with the determination of a dedicated patriot. When about a year after the independence, we lost the Founder of Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan’s responsibilities increased a hundred fold Liaquat was in every way a worthy successor (to the Quaid).
Jinnah’s death emboldened India to go on the offensive in a big way. Within twelve hours of Jinnah’s burial, it mounted an invasion of Hyderabad state, and occupied the state within five days. In September 1949, India imposed a trade embargo, putting Pakistan to serious economic strains since India was at that time the largest buyer of Pakistan jute, the country’s premier cash crop, and the main supplier of coal to Pakistan. In early 1950, the Indian Prime Minister threatened to use “other methods” in East Pakistan, and India troops were massed within a striking distance of East Pakistan, in order to pressure Pakistan into accepting New Delhi’s dictate on the minorities question. Again, in July 1951, India massed its troops on West Pakistan borders. Each time Liaquat stood his ground, took effective measures to counter the Indian moves, showed courage, determination and statesmanship, and galvanised the nation as a solid Phalanx.
The credit for presenting Objective Resolution and putting the foundation of Modern Islamic Constitution goes to Liaquat Ali Khan. The Objective Resolution affirms that “the state shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people.” “This”, argued Liaquat, “is very essence of democracy, because the people have been recognised as the recipients of all authority and it is in them that the power to wield it has been vested.”
Liaquat Ali Khan further emphasised that, “Islam does not recognise either priesthood or any sacerdotal authority, and, therefore, the question of a theocracy simply does not arise in Islam. If there are any who still use the word theocracy in the same breath as the policy of Pakistan they are either labouring under a grave misapprehension, or indulging in mischievous propaganda.”
Liaquat Ali Khan discussing the form of Government to be introduced in Pakistan said “We want to build up a truly liberal government where the greatest amount of freedom will be given to all its members. Everyone will be equal before the law, but this does not mean that his personal law will not be protected. We believe in the equality of status and justice. At present our masses are poor and illiterate. We must raise their standards of life, and free them from the shackles of poverty and ignorance.”
He initiated polices designed to enable Pakistan to play its due rule in the comity of nations and world forums. He strengthened Pakistan’s still tentative links with several Muslim countries, extended support to liberation movements in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Nigeria, called the first International Islamic Economic Conference in early 1951, which was attended by, among other, the Grand Mufti of Palestine, Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, and Abdullah Usman of Somalia.
He used his diplomatic skills to win support abroad for Pakistan in its disputes with India, especially on Kashmir. When the Commonwealth prime minister were found lukewarm in discussing these disputes and suggesting solutions, he took a bold stand: he refused to attend the third Commonwealth Conference in 1950 unless Kashmir was put on the agenda. Likewise, he was successful in selling Pakistan’s viewpoint during his crucial official visit to the United States in May 1950.
As he said, “Barathran-e-Millat”, there was the sound of pistol shot, Liaquat Al Khan put his right hand on his heart. He whispered faintly, “Allah”, Then he recited the Kalimah, and his last words were “May God protect Pakistan”. The assassin was killed on the spot. Shaheed-i-Millat was taken in a car to the Combined Military Hospital, where the doctors pronounced him dead. By this supreme sacrifice, the Quaid-i-Millat earned for himself the immortal title of “Shaheed-i-Millat”.
Liaquat’s untimely death still surrounded in mystery. It was a great national tragedy. However, justice was never done to the benefactor of Pakistan, who left behind the immortal message: “God save Pakistan”. It was the first political murder in the history of Pakistan. It is alleged that assassination was conspired by those were selfish adventurers, who wanted to capture the power by hook or by crook. Since then it has become a tradition to suppress the conclusive evidence, pending the case to be forgotten by the people with the passage of time. Liaquat Ali Khan was no doubt a martyr and his name will remain shining forever on the horizon of Pakistan.